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Staying the Course: Keeping Adult Learners Motivated to Finish Strong

by Nicole R. Jordan

“Inclusion in the classroom setting will help maintain a student’s wish to learn, continue, and finish their program because the instructor shows their desire for fairness.”

As the world is transitioning to a  way of living and conscience thinking, education has become one of s shift. Pre-K through twelfth-grade students need adequate educational resources to continue their instruction at home, and schools are making this possible for all students to have these necessary tools. Adult education learners should not be excluded from this list. It is essential for adult learners to have access to possessions, such as computer/internet sources, as well as communication with adult learning programs and instructors. Due to lack of resources, trouble with understanding class instructions, and the absence of inclusive class practices; students have been blindsided by the difficulty of both learning from home and the lack of unbiased instruction from their educators. These factors have adult learners taking a step back from their educational path.

Nowadays, homes have become crowded with entire families continuing their education online with a range of students from Pre-K through adults. Precedence is being given to the younger students because of their need for online help. Moreover, adults have many responsibilities and their education waits until life calms down to start again. Nevertheless, staying the course for an adult learner’s educational milestone is significant to help alleviate financial stress, gain career advancement, and build self-confidence, just to name a few.

As we know, adult learning education can range from courses and programs for students who are out of school and/or college including basic literacy, personal fulfillment, and attainment of advanced degrees. Because of the unparalleled times of today’s society, adults are utilizing their survival skills and taking care of their most important needs. As explained in Maslow’s Theory of Self-Actualization; Physical, Security, Social, and even Ego all take priority over SelfActualization, which is the part of ourselves that fulfills potential and has meaningful goals (Burton, 2012). Education is also a part of this section of Self Actualization. As the pyramid scales upward, Physical is the foundation of needs and our adult learners are always fulfilling this area until it is secure enough to move up the pyramid.

Maslow's Heirarchy of needs

Education is imperative to adult learners. Professor Malcom Knowles defined the term andragogy in the 1970s which refers to the adult learner and the five pillars that are essential for understanding them (Carmichael, n.d.; Graham, 2017). Each one explains the necessity for adult students to continue to strive towards their goals. Pillar #5 is important to helping the adult learner push forward in their Internal Motivation to Learn. Even though the adult student takes time off to take care o significant matters, they still have the desire to finish their educational journey.


“Inclusion in the classroom setting will help maintain a students’ wish to learn, continue, and finish their program because the instructor shows their desire for fairness.”

As adult educators, we have the responsibility to our students to assist them with their aspiration to complete their education outcome, i.e. GED® diploma, certification, degree, or personal fulfillment. Our adult learners will resume classes. When they do, it is important to provide the students necessary online and/or in-person instruction with:

  • impartial education materials;
  • easy-to-follow guides for retrieving class information;
  • multiple ways to communicate with the instructor; and
  • unconventional options for accessing class and turning in assignments.

Educators must show learners their inclusive academic environment no matter if the class is online or in-person. Inclusion in the classroom setting will help maintain a students’ wish to learn, continue, and finish their program because the instructor shows their desire of fairness. Adult learners may have to become creative during these times to finish their education by using alternative devices besides a computer to access class or find Wi-Fi at a nearby business to retrieve assignments. Instructors need to be sensitive to these situations and offer support and affirmations to keep the students encouraged and motivated.

Instructors have an important role in keeping students engaged as Knowles noted during his research with the five pillars of adult learners. Students want to learn as part of their Self-Actualization even though it is always a priority. When times are tough, perseverance is critical. Sustaining adult learners to stay the course is to maintain inclusion and equality with instruction and communication as well as provide positive affirmations so that they can continue their learning path with determination.


Burton, N. (2012, December 11). Our Hierarchy of Needs. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday. com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201212/our-hierarchy-needs#commentsbottom

Carmichael, C. (n.d.). The Importance of Diversity in Adult Learning Principles. Cengage, Today’s Learner. https://todayslearner.cengage.com/the-importance-of-diversity-in-adult-learningprinciples/

Graham, S. (2017, May 22). A Simple, Easy to Understand Guide to Andragogy. Cornerstone University. https://www.cornerstone.edu/blog-post/a-simpleeasy-to-understand-guide-to-andragogy/

Nicole JordanNicole R. Jordan, M.A., has worked in adult education for more than 10 years as an educator and advisor. She is currently with Chesapeake Public Schools Department of Adult and Continuing Education and Tidewater Community College. Her career has spanned across the years educating students from ages Pre-K to adults in public schools, community colleges, and non-profit settings in the areas of tutoring, teaching, and community resource liaison. It is her passion to continue working with adult learners on helping them finish their educational goals and collaborate with educators to provide education and community resources for learners to help them thrive.